The season is over.
And another quarterback competition awaits.
As Washington football fans distract themselves from yet another national title game without a Pac-12 representative, let’s open the mailbag and set our sights on the 2021 season.
Of course, it isn’t fair to say that Washington doesn’t use its wide receivers. The Huskies use them plenty — though, maybe not in the way some fans want to see. But let’s put that aside and address your actual question.
It’s true, UW doesn’t feature its wide receivers in the passing game as often as offenses with true spread/air raid/run-and-shoot schemes. Last season, the Huskies’ 27.8 pass attempts per game ranked 98th nationally and 10th in the Pac-12. And their leading receiver in just about every offensive category was junior tight end Cade Otton.
The better news is that, when he did throw, UW redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris made his attempts count — averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt (ranking third in Pac-12 and 30th nationally). And a five-star pro-style quarterback in Sam Huard just signed with the Huskies as well.
Even so, there’s a concern that this scheme — accompanied by a head coach wearing a “Run the damn ball” hat — might not effectively entice elite wide receivers to Washington. In the 2021 class, five-star wideout Emeka Egbuka (Ohio State) and four-star standouts Troy Franklin (Oregon), Junior Alexander (Arizona State) and Xavier Worthy (Michigan) signed elsewhere. The only 2021 wide receiver destined for UW is one of Huard’s prep teammates, four-star Kennedy Catholic prospect Jabez Tinae.
But let’s not discount the work of UW wide receivers coach Junior Adams — who has helped sign a quartet of four-star wide receivers in Puka Nacua, Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Tinae. Another four-star recruit, 2022 Liberty (Nev.) speedster Germie Bernard, is committed to Washington as well.
As always, the most full-proof solution is for Washington to win — and for UW’s wide receivers to succeed in the process. With a more experienced unit, second-year offensive coordinator John Donovan must prove his scheme can maximize its wide receivers with admittedly limited opportunities — while developing those prospects for the NFL draft. And Adams must enthusiastically and effectively sell that vision.
The early returns on that front were somewhat underwhelming, but let’s see how standout wide receivers view this offense with an extended sample size.
Let’s just get this out of the way now: I’m not going to answer this question, because I can’t answer it. And neither can you, or Lake, or anyone else.
At least, not yet.
What I can say is that there will be a quarterback competition this offseason, which will present Huard with a realistic opportunity to win the job. And given that the 6-foot-1, 190-pound freshman was ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 pro-style passer in his class by the 247Sports Composite, and also owns one of the more beloved last names on Montlake, I fully expect UW fans to push for him as the favorite.
But it won’t be easy.
Not against redshirt freshman Dylan Morris, who led the Huskies to a 3-1 record in his first taste of Pac-12 football last fall. The 6-foot, 200-pound passer from Puyallup completed 60.9% of his passes and threw for 897 yards with six total touchdowns and three interceptions. Outside of the Utah win, he also protected the football — which we know Lake values in his quarterback. He led the Huskies on a game-winning 88-yard touchdown march against the Utes and has clearly earned the respect of his teammates as well.
And, when it comes to experience, graduate transfer quarterback Patrick O’Brien has them both beat. The 6-5, 235-pounder has spent five combined seasons at Colorado State and Nebraska, and completed 56.3% of his passes while throwing for 591 yards with three passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions in four games at CSU last fall. That’s after he completed 62% of his passes and threw for 2,803 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while adding two more rushing scores, in 11 games (nine starts) with the Rams in 2019.
O’Brien is a big, strong-armed, experienced quarterback who would appear to be a skill-set fit in the Huskies’ pro-style system. But, as we saw a year ago with Kevin Thomson, extra seasoning doesn’t always equate to starting snaps.
So, is Huard capable of starting for the Huskies against Montana on Sept. 4?
In a way, you could argue he’d be doing something similar to what he’s doing now.
After all, Lake told The Times in 2018 that as he eyed a business-management degree at Eastern Washington, “I hadn’t figured it all out yet. I just knew I wanted to manage and make money.”
Instead, one of EWU’s young assistants helped steer Lake toward a career in coaching.
“Pete Kwiatkowski was definitely one of the guys who pushed me to be in this profession,” Lake said of UW’s current defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach.
More than two decades later, Lake secured his first head coaching gig — with Kwiatkowski at his side.
And, among other things, he’s managing and making money.